The Saudi Railway Organisation has extended the closing date for bids on an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the Haramain high-speed rail project by a month.

The organisation originally set a deadline of 31 January for companies to submit their bids, but this has now been pushed back to 28 February, according to a source close to the project.

“The main reason for the delay is that the tender process has changed,” the source says. “It was supposed to be two steps: one, technical and two, financial. Now it will be one step together, technical and financial”.

Saudi Binladin Group and two other local firms, Al-Shoula Group and Al-Rajhi, are among the bidders for the contract, which is the second phase of the $7bn scheme to link Mecca, Medina and Jeddah by rail (MEED 06:01:10).

The group led by Al-Rajhi, called the Al-Rajhi Alliance, also includes France’s Alstom and the China Railway Company.

In total, five groups are expected to submit bids. The Badr and Alsafwa consortiums are the final two groups.

The successful bidder will work on the construction of the track as well as signalling, telecoms, electrification and an operational control centre. The contract also includes the procurement and maintenance of trains, and rail infrastructure for 12 years after completion.

The Al-Rajhi Alliance is already carrying out the first package of phase one on the 440-kilometre line, which covers civil works.

Foster & Partners and Buro Happold, both of the UK, are currently working on package two of phase one, covering the design of four stations along the route.